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Submitted towards the partial fulfilment of grading for the VI semester of

BBA+LLB[Hons.] Course for the subject “Interpretation of Statutes”

Submitted To: Submitted By:

Satya Kam Sharma Himanshu Mishra
Assistant Professor 15GSOL103079
School of Law, VI Semester
Galgotias University, Gr. Noida BBA+LLB[Sec-A]

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I Himanshu Mishra hereby declare that the project work entitled Parliamentary History As An
External Aid Of Construction Submitted, is a record of an original work done by me under the
guidance of Prof. Satya Kam Sharma, Faculty School of Law, Galgotias University, and this
project work is submitted in the partial fulfilment of requirements for VI Semester. The results
embodied in this project have not been submitted to any other University or Institute for the award
of any degree or any kind of provided work.

Himanshu Mishra


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This is to certify that the student named Himanshu Mishra of VI semester of BBA+LLB (Sec-
A) is a bonafide student of School of Law, Galgotias University & has completed the project
Parliamentary History As An External Aid Of Construction under my guidance and supervision. His
conduct was of good nature and has put all his efforts and hard work while working on this project.

Satya Kam Sharma

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I would like to express my gratitude to the following people without whose cooperation and
encouragement I wouldn’t have been able to complete his assignment.
First and foremost, I thank my faculty of Interpretation of Statutes who gave me the opportunity
to write upon such an interesting topic. His guidance and support were beneficial.
Secondly, I would like to thank my parents who provided me with all the necessities required to
make this assignment. I am grateful for their support and understanding.

Himanshu Mishra

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 Babu Ram v State of U.P AIR 1959 All 672

 Black Clawson International Ltd v Papierwerke Waldhof Aschaffenburg, AG [1975] AC


 Chiranjit Lal Chowdhary v Union of India 1951 AIR 41

 CIT, AP, v Jayalakshmi Rice and Oil Mills Contractor Co 1971 AIR 1015

 CIT, MP v Sodra Devi 1957 AIR 832

 Express Newspapers (Pvt) Ltd v Union of India 1986 AIR 872

 Indira Sawhney v Union of India AIR 1993 SC 477

 K.S. Paripoornan v State of Kerala 1995 AIR 1012

 M Ismail Faruqqui v Union of India AIR 1995 SC 605 A

 Maharani Kusumkumari v Kusumkumari Jadeja 1991 SCC (1) 582

 Pepper v Hart 3 WLR 1032

 R v Shivpuri [1986] 2 WLR 988

 RS Nayak v AR Antuley 1984 AIR 684

 State of Travancore v Bombay Co Ltd 1952 AIR 366

 Union of India v Harbhajan Singh 1972 AIR 1061,

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Declarations 2
Certificate 3
Acknowledgment 4
Table of cases 5
List of abbreviations 6

S.No. Topic Page no.

1 Introduction 8
2 Eternal Aid to Construction 8
3 Parliamentary History 9
a) English Practise 10
I. Traditional View 10
II. Criticism of Traditional View 11
III. Modern Trend 12
b) American Practise 14
c) Indian Practise 15
i. Bill 15
ii. Statement of Object and Reasons 17
iii. Commission/Inquiry Committee 18
iv. Parliamentary Debates 19
v. Letter 20
4 Conclusion 20

Bibliography 21

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While interpreting a statute true intent of the legislature shall have to be gathered and deciphered
in its proper spirit having due regard to the language used therein.

i. Where language is clear, external aid for construction is not required. External aids are
relevant only when the language is not clear and two meanings are possible.

ii. Factual events contemporaneous to time of interpretation cannot be taken into

consideration for interpretation of a statute. The Supreme Court held in a case that the
approach of High Court in interpreting the Development Control Regulations having regard
to certain other factors, namely, deluge in Bombay in 2005 as also the requirements of
entire population of Bombay from environmental aspect was erroneous. It was held that
such factors cannot be taken into consideration for interpretation of a statute.


 Dictionaries

 Foreign decisions

 Parliamentary history

 Historical facts and surrounding circumstances

 Subsequent social, political and economic developments and scientific inventions

 Text books

 Reference to other statutes

 Contemporanea exposito est fortissimo in lege

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 Websites


The leading authorities do not provide a precise meaning of the term “legislative history.”
Generally, the term is used to denote documents relating to events that occurred during the
conception, preparation, and passage of the enactment. Peter Hogg considers legislative history to
include the following materials:

1. The report of a royal commission or law reform commission or parliamentary committee

recommending that a statute be enacted;

2. A government policy paper (whether called a white paper, green paper, budget paper or
whatever) recommending that a statute be enacted;

3. A report or study produced outside government which existed at the time of the enactment
of the statute and was relied upon by the government that introduced the legislation;

4. Earlier versions of the statute, either before or after its introduction into Parliament or the

5. Statements by ministers or members of Parliament and testimony of expert witnesses

before a parliamentary committee charged with studying the bill; and

6. Speeches in the Parliament or Legislature when the bill is being debated.

Absent from the foregoing list are explanatory memoranda which are documents explaining the
contents and objects of the bill to members of the house- frequently used in some common law
jurisdictions, such as Australia. These materials are also considered to be part of legislative history.
The parliamentary procedure is similar across most common law jurisdictions, except for the
United States. After the draft legislation has been accepted by the government, it is introduced in
the Parliament. It then proceeds through the normal stages of first and second readings, reference
to committee, report stage, and final reading of the bill. House members’ commentary on the bill
during the three readings is recorded in Hansard, the official reporter of parliamentary debates.

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The vast majority of drafts are public bills introduced by the government; there are also private
bills and private members’ bills.

It is noteworthy that speeches in Parliament on a statute made subsequent to its enactment — such
as parliamentary statements during the debate on an unsuccessful amendment to the statute —
cannot be considered part of its legislative history. Such speeches did not occur during the
enactment and are not antecedent to the crystallization of the words in the statute. Therefore,
although they are recorded in Hansard, they cannot be regarded as parliamentary debates on that
particular legislation.

Legislative history — must be distinguished from the so-called social-science data and other
factual materials that have played no role in the legislative process. Social science data can be
introduced as evidence in certain courts, particularly in the United States, in the form of a
“Brandeis brief.” They are, however, distinct from (and cannot be considered part of) the
legislative history of a statute. Although they can have bearing on the construction of a statute,
social-science data are, in effect, facts submitted to the general rules of evidence. In contrast,
legislative history materials are not facts — neither adjudicative nor legislative — but rather
interpretive aids.


English practice can be discussed under three sub-headings.:


English traditional view is that ‘the intent of the Parliament which passed the act is not to
be gathered from the parliamentary history of the statute.’
The Bill in its original form, or the amendments considered during its progress in the
legislature are not admissible as aids to construction.

Recommendations contained in the report of a Royal Commission which may have led to
the introduction of the measure in Parliament cannot be used as evidence for the purpose
of showing the intention, i.e., purpose or object of the Act.

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Courts are entitled to consider such external facts as may be necessary to understand the
subject-matter to which the statutes relates or they can also have regard to the mischief
which the statute is intended to remedy. The exclusionary rule has been relaxed to admit
the reports of the Commission preceding statutory measure as evidence of surrounding
circumstances with reference to which the words in the statute are used.
In Black Clawson International Ltd v Papierwerke Waldhof Aschaffenburg, AG1, the
House of Lords unanimously held that the report of a committee presented to Parliament
proceeding the legislation could be seen for finding out the then state of law and the
mischief required to be remedied. But the majority held that the report could not be looked
at for finding out the intention of the Parliament, i.e., for a direct statement of what the
proposed enactment meant even though the report set out a draft bill which was enacted
without any alteration. But the minority view was that when the draft bill was enacted
without any alteration, it was Parliament’s intention to do what the committee
recommended and to achieve the object the Committee had in mind and, therefore, the
Committee’s observations on the draft bill would form the most valuable guide to the
intention of the Parliament. The majority view was followed and it was held that while
considering an Act passed to give effect to a scheme formulated at a Commonwealth Law
Ministers conference, the scheme could be looked at to see the mischief in need of a remedy
and the steps proposed to effectuate the remedy and a white paper preceding a legislation
can be used for the same purpose.


The English practice continued to make the distinction drawn between the refusal to admit
the report of a Committee for purpose of finding out the intention of Parliament and its
relevance as evidence of surrounding circumstances or as aid to understand the subject-
matter to which the statute relates or as indicative of the evil or defect which the act was
intended to remedy, is somewhat obscure. Allen in his book has referred to it as
If the key to opening of every law is the reason and the spirit of the law and if a statute is

[1975] AC 591, [1975] 2 WLR 513, [1975] 1 All ER 810, [1975] UKHL 2

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best interpreted when we know why it was enacted then the steps taken for understanding
or defining the object of or the mischief intended to be dealt with by the statute are
themselves a part of the process for getting its meaning. When the courts start upon the
task of interpreting a statute, it is unrealistic and impractical to divide the exercise into
different compartments viz, one leading to discerning the object or mischief and the other
leading to discerning the true meaning of the statute. The exercise in its entirety is one
process for discerning the true meaning of the Act, or, in other words, the intention of the
It was held in R v Shivpuri2 that reports of law commissions preceding a legislation
constitute an important material for understanding the legislation and it has been
acknowledged that a careful reading of such a report would have avoided an erroneous
construction which was very soon overruled.


In construing statutes, the school of thought that open use should be made of parliamentary history
has been gaining ground. The rule against references to legislative history is no longer so much a
‘canon of construction’ as a ‘counsel of caution’. In other words, it is for the Courts to consider
what weight is to be given to the materials that emerge from scrutiny of legislative history rather
than to automatically to exclude such materials from all considerations as an aid to interpretation.’
Legislative history of a statute can be looked into only in case of ambiguity and not otherwise.

In Pepper v Hart3, this trend found an approval. It was held that reference to Parliamentary material
should be permitted as an aid to construction of legislation which is ambiguous or obscure or the
literal meaning of which leads to absurdity. Even in such cases, references in court to parliamentary
material should only be permitted where such material clearly discloses the mischief aimed at or
the legislative intention lying behind the ambiguous or obscure words.
It was further held in this case that ‘the court cannot attach a meaning to words which it cannot
bear, but if the words are capable of bearing more than one meaning, why should not Parliament’s
true intention be enforced.’ It was also observed that ‘given the purposive approach to construction

[1986] 2 WLR 988, [1986] 1 All ER 334, [1986] UKHL 2, [1987] AC 1
UKHL 3, AC 593, 3 WLR 1032

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now adopted by courts in order to give effect to the true intention of the legislature, the fine
distinctions looking for the mischief and looking for the intention is using words to provide the
remedy are technical and inappropriate.

There were two objections to this:

1) Parliamentary materials are not readily available but it was said that experience has shown that
non-availability of materials has not raised any practical problems in countries like Australia and
New Zealand.

2) Another objection raised was that recourse to Parliamentary material will amount to questioning
the freedom of speech and debates in Parliament. But this objection was rejected and it was held
that far from questioning the independence of Parliament and its debates, the courts would be
giving effect to what is said and done there.

Pepper v Hart is a landmark decision relating to resorting to parliamentary history as an external

aid to construction. The facts of the case were: There was an appeal by tax payers who were
teachers in a school. Under a scheme of the school the members of the staff were entitled to have
their children educated at the school on payment of only one-fifth of the normal fee chargeable
from members of the public. Cash equivalent to this benefit’ was chargeable to income-tax under
S61 (1) of the Finance Act, 1976. The concessionary fees more than covered the additional cost to
the school of educating the tax-payers children. Section 63(1) said that cash equivalent to the
benefit meant ‘an amount equal to the cost of the benefit’ and S 63 (2) gave the meaning of cost
of benefit as the amount of any expense incurred in or in connection with its provision. Now the
question in this case was ‘what is the true meaning of s 63(2)’.
The House of Lords found that S 63(2) was ambiguous. Therefore, the reference was made to the
Parliamentary history and statements made by the Financial Secretary to the treasury during the
Committee stage of the bill which clearly showed that the Parliament had passed the legislation
with the intention that the concessionary benefits for teacher’s children would be worked on the
additional or marginal cost to the employers and on the average cost. On this basis the construction
contended for by the tax payers was upheld.

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In contrast to the traditional English practice, under American practice, the old rule of exclusion
of parliamentary history has been very much relaxed. Although it is generally accepted that
“debates in Congress are not appropriate or even reliable guides to the meaning of the language of
an enactment”, it has been held that the said rule “is not violated by resorting to debates as a means
of ascertaining the environment at the time of enactment of a particular law, that is, the history of
the period when it was adopted.” Further it appears to be well accepted that “the reports of a
committee, including the bill as introduced, changes made in the frame of the Bill in the course of
its passage and the statement made the committee chairman in charge of it, stand upon a different
footing, and maybe resorted to under proper qualifications.”

It is easy to find opponents and supporters of these views. Some critics even in America feel that
recourse to legislative history is a badly overdone practice of dubious help to true interpretation.
It has been characterized as ‘the custom of re-making statutes to fit their histories.’ It has also been
pointed out that the practice poses serious practical problems for a large part of legal profession.
The formal Act is no longer a safe basis on which a lawyer may advise his client and he must
consult all of the committee reports on the bill and all its antecedents, and all that its supporters
and opponents said in debate, and then predict what part of the conflicting views will likely appeal
to a majority of the Court. Further, it has been stated that the most unfortunate consequence of
resort to legislative history is that it introduces the policy controversies that generated the Act into
the deliberations of the Court. Prof. Reed Dickerson after analyzing the uses and abuse of
legislative history concludes that “the more realistic approach to legislative history would be to
end or severely limit its judicial use.”

On the other hand, those who support the liberal use of legislative materials for the purpose of
construction says that the meaning of the words of a statute be resolved in the light of their setting
in the legislative process rather than in the light of the intuition of the judge. According to this
view, a liberal use of legislative material is one of the modern efforts so that judicial law making
under the guise of interpretation may be reduced to its necessary minimum.
It will appear that a wholesale inclusion of parliamentary history as also a wholesale inclusion

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thereof is both extremes equally open to objections, and the correct solution lies in finding out a
middle course as now adopted by the House of Lords.


The Supreme Court has used the aid of Parliamentary history in resolving questions of construction
but it can be said that the Supreme Court generally has enunciated the said rule of exclusion of
Parliamentary history in the way it was traditionally enunciated by English Courts. But in few
cases, it has been held that he legislative history within circumspect limits may not consulted by
the Courts in resolving ambiguities. Legislative history and precedent English statutes may be
taken into consideration in giving beneficent interpretation to a provision in an act. In determining
legislative intent, even a minister’s budget speech was taken into consideration.

(i) BILL

As the speeches made by the members of the Constitution Assembly in the course of
debates on the draft Constitution cannot be admitted as an external aid to the
Constitution, in the same way, the debates on a Bill in Parliament are not admissible
for construction of the Act which is ultimately enacted.
In State of Travancore v Bombay Co Ltd4, it was held that a speech made in the course
of the debate on a bill could at best be indicative of the subjective intent of the speaker,
but it could not reflect the inarticulate mental process lying behind the majority vote
which carried the bill. Nor is it reasonable to assume that the minds of all those
legislators were in accord.

In Chiranjit Lal Chowdhary v Union of India5, Fazal Ali, J admitted Parliamentary

history including the speech of the Minister introducing the Bill as evidence of the
circumstances which necessitated the passing of the Act, a course apparently approved
in later decisions.

1952 AIR 366,1952 SCR 1112
1951 AIR 41,1950 SCR 869

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In Union of India v Harbhajan Singh6, extensive references were made to speeches in
the Constituent Assembly to support the construction that wealth-tax on net-wealth
including capital value of agricultural lands fell within the residuary power of the
Parliament. In Indira Sawhney v Union of India7, the Supreme Court referred to Dr.
Ambedkar’s speech in the Constituent Assembly and observed interpreting art 16 (4),
‘that the debates in the Constituent Assembly could be relied upon as an aid to
interpretation of a constitutional provision is borne out by a series of decisions of the
Court.’ Since the expression backward classes of citizens are not defined in the
Constitution, reference to such debates is permissible to ascertain at any rate the
context, background and objective behind them. Particularly where the courts want to
ascertain the ‘original intent’ such reference may be unavoidable.
The amendments considered during the progress of a bill were ruled out as inadmissible
for purposes of construction of the Act. This principle was modified by the Supreme
Court in the case of Express Newspapers (Pvt) Ltd v Union of India8. The Court
observed that there is a consensus of opinion that the circumstances under which a
particular word came to be deleted from the original Bill as introduced in the Parliament
and the fact of such deletion when the act to be passed in the final shape are not aids to
the construction of terms of a statute. It is applicable only when the terms of a statute
are vague or ambiguous.

In K.S. Paripoornan v State of Kerala9, it was held that speeches of members of

Parliament are not admissible as extrinsic aids though the speech of the mover of the
bill can be referred to find out the object intended to be achieved by the Bill. Similarly
it was held that statements made by a Minister in the house who had moved the Bill in
Parliament could be referred to ascertain the mischief sought to be remedies by
legislation but it could not be relied on for interpreting provisions of the enactment.

1972 AIR 1061,1972 SCR(2)33,1971 SCC(2)779
AIR 1993 SC 477, 1992 Supp 2 SCR 454
1986 AIR 872, 1985 SCR Supl. (3) 382
1995 AIR 1012, 1994 SCC (5) 593

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The statement of objects and reasons accompanying a legislative bill cannot be used to
ascertain the true meaning and affect of the substantive provisions of the legislation,
but it can certainly be pressed into service for the limited purpose of understanding the
background, the antecedent state of affairs and the object that the legislation sought to
achieve. If the meaning of the provision of a statute is clear and explicit, it is not
necessary to advert to the objects and reasons thereof.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons is undoubtedly an aid to construction but that
by itself cannot be termed to be and by itself as an aid to the construction of a statute.
It is a useful guide but the interpretations and the intent shall have to be gathered from
the entirety of the statute. In Ashwini Kumar’s case, the statement of Objects and
Reasons was ruled out as an aid to the construction of a statute. When a validity of a
particular statute is brought into question, a limited reference may be made to the
Statement of Objects and Reasons but it may not be relied on. It may be employed for
the purposes of comprehending the factual background, the prior state of legal affairs,
the surrounding circumstances in respect of the statute and the evil which the statute
has sought to remedy. It cannot be the exclusive footing upon which a statute is made
a nullity through the decision of a court of law.

Statement of Objects and Reasons can be referred only for understanding the
background, the antecedent state of affairs, the surrounding circumstances in relation
to the state of affairs, and the evil which the statute has sought to remedy. It can be
referred to only to ascertain conditions prevailing at the time which prompted
introduction of Bill but where language of the statute is clear and plain it is not required
to be referred to. It cannot be utilized for the purpose of restricting and controlling the
plain meaning of the language employed by the legislature in drafting a statute and
excluding from its operation such transactions which it plainly covers. In CIT, MP v
Sodra Devi10, while dealing with s 16(3) of the Income Tax Act 1922 as introduced by
the amending act IV of 1937, and in construing the words ‘any individual’ and ‘such

1957 AIR 832, 1958 SCR 1

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individual’ occurring therein Bhagwati J restricted their meaning to ‘males’ on a
consideration that the statement of objects and reasons appended to the Bill of
Amending Act made it clear that the evil which was sought to be remedied was the one
resulting from the widespread practice of husbands entering into nominal partnerships
with their wives and fathers admitting their minor children to the benefits of
partnerships of which they were members and that the only intention of the legislature
was to include the income derived by the wife or a minor child, in the computation of
total income of the male assessee, the husband or the father, as the case maybe. In Babu
Ram v State of U.P11, it was held that the statement of Objects and Reasons can be
referred to ascertain mischief sought to be remedied by the statute.
However, the statement of Objects and Reasons have never been held admissible for
determining whether a certain provision of the Act, which was ultra vires was or was
not severable from the other provisions of the Act. A provision inserted by subsequent
amendment cannot be construed on the basis of statement of objects and reasons of the
original statute.


Reports of Commissions or Inquiry Committees preceding the introduction of a Bill

have also been referred to as evidence of historical facts or of surrounding
circumstances or of mischief or evil intended to be remedied and at times for
interpreting the act. In the Transfer of Property Act, s 53- A was inserted on the basis
of recommendations of the Special Committee set up by the Government of India.
Examples can also be taken from Sodra Devi’s Case in which Income Tax Enquiry
Report was referred, in Express Newpaper’s Case where the Press Commissions Report
was referred and in Madanlal’s Case where report by Committee appointed to bring
changes in Company law was referred.

In CIT, AP, v Jayalakshmi Rice and Oil Mills Contractor Co12, it was held that the
report of the special committee which had been appointed by the Government of India

AIR 1959 All 672
1971 AIR 1015, 1971 SCR (3) 365

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to examine the provisions of the Bill which later became the Partnership Act could not
be admitted for interpreting the provisions of the Act.
But a different view was taken in RS Nayak v AR Antuley13 where the court held that
report of the Committee which preceded the enactment of a legislation, reports of joint
Parliamentary Committee and Report of a Commission set up for collecting
information leading to the legislation are permissible external aids to construction of
the Act.

In M Ismail Faruqqui v Union of India14, it was held by the Supreme Court that white
paper issued by the Government detailing the facts leading to enactment of a statute is
also admissible for understanding the background when the court is called upon to
interpret and decide the validity of the statute. In understanding the background of the
Babri Masjid dispute, in deciding the reference made under art 143 and the
constitutionality of the Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act 1993 extensive
reference was made by the Supreme Court to the white paper. In Samantha v State of
Andhra Pradesh15, in interpreting para 5(2) of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution,
reports of drafting committee and sub-committees of the Constituent Assembly, the
Draft Constitution and changes made thereafter in giving it the final shape were referred
by the Supreme Court.

However, in Maharani Kusumkumari v Kusumkumari Jadeja16, the Law Commissions

Report as an external aid to construction was not relied on.


Parliamentary debates at the time of introduction of bill may be used as an external aid
in interpretation. It is a settled position that there can only be limited use of
Parliamentary Debates. Court should not normally critically analyse the proceedings of
Parliament. In Milton v DPP, in interpreting the term ‘prosecution’ under Income Tax

1984 AIR 684, 1984 SCR (2) 495
AIR 1995 SC 605 A
Appeal (civil) 4601-02 of 1997
1991 SCR (1) 193, 1991 SCC (1) 582

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Act, a minister’s speech at the time of introduction of Bill has been taken into

The letter written by Law Minister cannot override the statutory provision. When the
statute is very clear, whatever statement made by the Law Minister on the floor of the
House cannot change the words and intendment borne out from the words. It was held
that such a letter cannot be read to interpret the provisions of S100A CPC. The intention
of the Legislature is more than clear in the words and the same has to be given its
natural meaning and cannot be subject to any statement made by the Law Minister in
any communication. The words speak for themselves. It does not require any further
interpretation by any statement made in any manner.

Even if accepted, in the case of Parliamentary History as an aid to construction of a
statute, the general principle followed is that it can be used only in cases where the
statute is not clear or is ambiguous. Some Parliamentary opinions like ‘Bills’ and
‘statement of objects and reasons’ and Parliamentary debates are resorted to only to a
limited extent if at all accepted. However, reports of Commissions have more authority
in this regard. On analysis, it is clear that courts under Common Law jurisdiction are
wary of accepting Parliamentary History as an external aid to interpretation of statute.

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1. Introduction to the Interpretation of Statutes by Dr. Avtar Singh and Dr. Harpreet Kaur,
3rd Edition (2009), Lexis Nexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur.
2. Principles of Statutory Interpretation by Justice G.P.Singh, 13th Edition (2012), Lexis
Nexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur.
3. Maxwell on The Interpretation of Statutes,J. Langan, 12th Edition (2010), Lexis Nexis
Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur.


1. Parliamentary Debates in Statutory Interpretation: A Question of Admissibility or

Weight?: Stephan Beaulac.

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